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TAEGU, South Korea — Often, the phone calls would quickly turn very nasty. They’d be from U.S. civilians working for the U.S. military in Taegu.

Why, they’d ask, didn’t the Army housing office have enough clothes washers and dryers to go around?

When they’d taken a South Korea assignment, they’d come in expecting that the Army would supply them not only with furniture but a refrigerator, gas range, washer and dryer.

The problem surfaced slowly in 1999, when the housing office ran short of appliances for government civilians living off post. And there were no funds readily available to replenish stocks.

“We had about 150 people waiting for washers and dryers,” said Henry Kim, housing division manager for the Army’s 20th Support Group. “Guys calling every week ... ‘What about my refrigerator? What about my dryer?’ ... It was not a nice situation.”

And matters got worse.

The Army closed several barracks for renovation. That meant the soldiers living there would have to be moved to off-post apartments. The Army’s off-post population went from 550 in 1999 to 1,030 in 2001, Kim said.

Each soldier would be entitled to a set of appliances and would get priority over the government civilians.

But then, out of desperation, Kim said, they hit on a solution. The housing office directly negotiates about 70 percent of leases between landlords and tenants from the local U.S. military community.

The housing people knew that in the Taegu housing market, there are more apartments available than people to fill them.

So in January 2002, Kim’s housing referral people started making landlords an offer: supply our people with appliances, and you stand to get the tenants you want in this very competitive market.

As of March, 296 landlords had hooked on with the program, Kim said.

“We turned the corner, and it’s a real bright picture now,” said Kim. “We have no waiting lists … there are no projections for a waiting list for the next four to five months.”

The Army stands to save more than “$1 million over a period of two to three years, and that’s very conservative,” said Kim. The four appliances — refrigerator, gas range, washer and dryer — would have run about $3,000 on the local economy, Kim said. But the Army is spared other costs, too: warehousing the items, trucking them to the residence, installation costs and upkeep.

Glenn Peters works as a budget analyst for the 20th SG at Camp Henry. When he moved into a Taegu apartment complex last February, the landlord supplied a “a brand new refrigerator, a gas stove and washer, and also curtains for the living room and master bedroom.” The Army gave him his clothes dryer.

“It worked out great,” he added. “I don’t have to depend on the Army for the appliances, or drag them around in my household goods. Whoever came up with the solution, I thank ’em.”

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